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Targeting different fish

Last weekend I attended the Reno-based Truckee River Fly Fishers’ annual fundraising banquet. Like our local club, the Tahoe Truckee Flyfishers, the Reno club promotes the sport of fly fishing and the conservation and protection of our resources. A lively group of our own Tahoe Truckee Flyfishers made the trek down to Reno to support the club’s cause.

The guest speaker for the event, Al Smatsky, was a fly fishing guide who guides in Baja as well as in Northern California. During his presentation he talked about two of his favorite trips and fish.

First, Smatsky talked about fishing for dorado ” otherwise known as dolphin or mahi mahi ” in Baja. Smatsky targets the area from La Paz to San Felipe, where he says you can fish for dorado almost year round. In that region they range in size up to 60 pounds.



Smatsky’s favorite time to fish the region is in July. This is the hottest month in Baja and it can be very uncomfortable due to the humidity. However, dorado fishing can be great.

Anglers use small boats called pangas, which accommodate about two people. Anglers travel offshore and look for floating vegetation called sargasso grass. This grass or debris that is floating should be checked because bait fish tend to favor these floating areas for food, shade and cover. As a result, dorado and other predatory fish are drawn to these areas.



When hooked, dorado make spectacular runs and many jumps in their attempt to throw the fly. Catching one of these fish really seems like something I would like to try.

After introducing us to Baja, Smatsky brought us back to local waters by showing us his favorite fish in the region ” the shad. Shad are migratory fish that are in the herring family. Called a “poor man’s tarpon” by some due to its fighting quality, the shad ranks very high on the list of sport fish.

In the spring Smatsky targets these fish in Verona, near the confluence of the Sacramento and Feather Rivers. This is the first opportunity to catch them as they begin their migration up the Feather, American and Yuba Rivers.

According to Smatsky, shad average one and a half to three pounds, but fish to six pounds are possible. They prefer slow to medium flows.

Fly set-ups are pretty simple, tied with bead chain or lead eyes to get the flies down in the water column. They are typically very colorful, with white, red, pink and chartreuse being the dominant colors. An eight-weight line and about a 300-grain line seem to the best option for these fish.

The good news about these fisheries is that they are virtually in our backyard. It only takes about an hour and a half to get down to the American and Feather Rivers to fish for shad and even less time to get to the Yuba River.

Bruce Ajari is a Truckee resident and regular fishing columnist for the Sierra Sun and other area newspapers.


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